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Love & relationships in Korea - a South Korean tells us

Koreans love in many ways different from people in western countries. You get to know each other in a different way. Various factors play a role in the choice of a partner, including that Parental influence should not be underestimated. But what exactly does one do Relationship in South Korea out? How do you date with Koreans? What should you watch out for when you want to meet a Korean? The co-author So from chingufreunde gives an insight into the Korean love culture.

Korean love relationships are different from relationships in western countries. Let's start with getting to know each other - how do Koreans go about this?

S: Getting to know each other is not that different compared to Germany. I would say that most Koreans get to know each other through social contacts such as friends or fellow students. This trail is preferred by most of South Koreans because it feels the most natural.

The second most popular variant is the so-called "Suction“Because here you use the network of friends to get hooked up. "Suction“Is a bit more relaxed, as it is a blind date, but you have a mutual acquaintance.

Can you tell more about suction? Is it very common in Korea?

S: Yes, many South Koreans like to try it out Suctionto get to know a partner. If you are single and would like to have a relationship, you can ask a friend if he can arrange a blind date with a potential partner. The other way round, it is also very common that, for example, two friends act as one for two other friends Blind date organize according to the motto "My buddy and your girlfriend are both singles and would be a good match, let's all meet up". The two acquaintances do not find the suction so powerful and can, for example, slowly scan and get to know each other during a meal together in a group of four. If there is interest on both sides, they can exchange their contacts and meet alone next time.

What about matchmaking agencies in South Korea? Are these popular in South Korea?

S: Matching agencies are also not uncommon in Korea, however, these cannot be compared with German dating agencies. Possible partners for a relationship are matched here using a strict scoring model. Criteria are factors such as job, income, attractiveness and health. The agencies promise their clients to propose partners who have achieved a similar or higher score in scoring than they did themselves.

Matchmaking agencies in South Korea are especially used by people looking for a spouse. The target group are mostly people from a higher social class (e.g. lawyers, doctors or wealthy people), or people who have difficulty getting to know people. Matching agencies are more for the older generation like my parents. They chose this type of service because marriages used to be viewed more as a contract between families and traditional values ​​were even more important. In the past there weren't as many opportunities to get to know someone in Korea as there are today.

Apply today Matching agencies and getting to know each other using a scoring model among the younger generation as something uncool, as it is too much geared towards the goal of “getting married” and only takes superficial factors into account. The younger generation sees this way of getting to know each other as too unromantic and artificial.

Where do Koreans go on a first date? What general recommendations are there for data in Korea?

S: There are many nice restaurants, bars and cafes in Korea. There is a lot of information on the Internet about which localities are best for the first date - so Koreans find out more about it on the relevant pages before going on a first date.

There are no generally applicable rules for the first date in Korea - but there are different options. Usually you go out to eat or drink something together (no strong alcohol, of course). Many couples also do something cultural and go to a cinema or a musical, for example. Traditionally in Korea the man paid the bill on the first date. I would say that this is still the case today. Often it is arranged in such a way that the man pays for the meal and the woman pays for a small snack or coffee afterwards. Today it is often the case that the man pays for the cultural (e.g. going to the cinema) and the woman then pays for the food. Overall, the costs are then divided fairly.

In South Korea today, people often think that the man has to impress the woman on the first date and, for example, should pay for a big meal. However, this is criticized more and more often because it no longer corresponds to the zeitgeist and women are less often financially worse off than men. The idea of ​​equality has grown in Korea lately, so more men and women want to split the bill, which I personally see as a good opportunity for both of them.

I've read that Koreans often decide to start a relationship after the second meeting. In Germany this would be seen as a very early point in time. If that's true, why is it?

S: Starting a relationship (officially being girlfriend and boyfriend) after the second date is indeed nothing out of the ordinary in South Korea. In order to explain this to outsiders, one has to understand the difference between relationships in Germany and in Korea.

In Korea, relationships begin at a very early stage of getting to know each other and the term “relationship” does not have such a “serious” meaning in Korea as it does in Germany. Of course, a relationship in Korea also stands for something exclusive between two people, but with the question “Would you like to be my boyfriend?” You tend to express that you want to get to know the person better in a romantic way. So the question expresses a will rather than a more in-depth decision; Both partners are aware that despite the "relationship" they do not know each other well after only a few meetings and that the relationship is rather "easy".

I think that this peculiarity of the Korean love culture also has its origins in the past and should make it clear that you want to get to know someone better or get closer physically.

Why do you think that some Koreans have more pressure to find a partner than people in western countries?

S: In my opinion, the main reason is that in South Korea the tradition still prevails that you have to start a family with children. The pressure doesn't just come from the family, it is felt through society in general. Many young Koreans in their late twenties are tired of being repeatedly asked how things are going with getting married and having children. When you are constantly under pressure and questions, you think that getting married is an obligation.

Although the pressure is too Getting married in South Korea larger than in Germany, it is not the case that Koreans marry or have children particularly often. If you take a look at the number of marriages and births in South Korea, you can see a decreasing trend. Today, South Korea is one of the most fertile countries in the world.

There are several reasons for the drop in births in Korea. Many Koreans make a conscious decision not to have a family because getting married comes with various family responsibilities. Getting married in Korea also means taking significant responsibility for the spouse's parents. Traditionally one pushes Wedding in Korea from the fact that the wife becomes part of the husband's family and also has to take care of his parents. Even today it still happens that the wife moves into the man's parental home and then lives under one roof with the man and his parents. These traditional ways of thinking and customs are of course very unattractive to young, educated Koreans.

In addition, many Koreans nowadays think that it is very difficult to raise children in South Korea. Upbringing, including all the expenses for education, is very expensive and many women have to quit their job after having a child due to traditional and practical constraints. It is therefore difficult for mothers in the Korean world of work; there are only a few suitable positions. In Korea it is usually the case that mothers have primary responsibility for raising their children. This fact leaves many women in despair, and many young Koreans fear that they will lead an unhappy life after they get married.

In Germany, we usually speak relatively openly with our parents about relationships and dates, and after a certain period of time we also introduce the partner to the parents. How is it in Korea? Are relationships hidden from parents in Korea and what is important to Korean parents when choosing a partner for their children?

S: That is one of the biggest differences between Germany and South Korea - many parents in South Korea are involved in choosing a partner for their child.

Korean parents often judge their child's boyfriend or girlfriend in terms of financial resources and family background. A secure job and income are very important to Korean parents. If the partner does not have a good job, Korean parents see a difficult future for their child.

With regard to the family background, Korean parents pay attention not only to the financial circumstances of the other family, but also to whether the partner's parents are divorced, for example. In Korea there is a prejudice that the children of divorced people are likely to divorce their spouse in the future. It may sound strange, but many parents also think that it is difficult for the children of divorced people to start a good and financially secure family.

These prejudices are of course outdated, also because the divorce rate in Korea itself is very high. But many Korean parents think that way when it comes to their child's future. Other factors influencing parents can be financial things like debt or illness.

For these reasons, it often happens that Korean couples prevail against the rejection of their partner by their parents, but ultimately do not become happy together and end up breaking up. In Korea, due to tradition, it is simply very difficult to assert oneself against the will of the parents, even when it comes to love.

How do Koreans feel about a relationship with someone from another country? And what do the parents think about it?

S: A relationship with a foreigner is not uncommon in South Korea these days, although older Koreans in particular have had very little contact with people from other countries in their lives. There aren't many foreigners in Korea - most of the foreigners you see on the streets of Seoul are tourists. You rarely meet foreigners at school or at work. Unlike Germany, for example, Korea is a homogeneous society. For these reasons, Korean parents would of course be very surprised if their child suddenly introduced them to someone from another country.

Foreign partners tend to be more likely to be accepted by the parents if the daughter / son lives abroad or has lived in the past (study / work) - it then seems more natural or the relationship can be more justified. Overall, it depends very much on the respective parents how they react to a foreign partner. In one case I know of, the parents accepted their daughter's Canadian boyfriend without any problems. In another case, the parents were shocked when their son suddenly found one japanese girlfriend would have. The older Korean generation is often prejudiced against strangers.

What are Koreans doing to increase their chances of dating?

S: Young Koreans are very careful about their appearance. If you want to get to know someone, wear nice clothes, maybe go on a diet, do sports or try a new hairstyle - anything that improves your appearance. Many Koreans are very concerned about pleasing the other after falling in love!

Many Koreans live with their parents until they get married, how can they get closer physically during a relationship and spend time undisturbed?

S: If you don't live alone, of course it's not that easy in South Korea! In Korea there are many so-called "love hotels" where couples can rent a room for a few hours. These “love hotels” are particularly popular among young South Koreans.

Is it now accepted in South Korea for couples to hold hands or even kiss on the open street?

S: Couples holding hands are now part of the normal street scene in Korea, light kisses are okay too. However, if you take it too wild when kissing, there is a high probability that you will get a lot of bad looks ("take a room!"). Some elderly people might speak to the couple directly and reprimand them out loud. Of course, such people are extreme, but kissing on the street in Korea can quickly turn into an uncomfortable situation.

How long does it usually take to get married in Korea? And how long does a couple usually wait before they decide to have their first child?

S: It differs from relationship to relationship. It can only be a few months, but it can also be years.

What do you think is the most annoying thing about dating in Korea or Korean relationships?

S: Often times, one is constrained in a relationship: one is expected to share every detail of daily life with the partner, one is constantly contacted and personal freedom is not accepted.

Finally, what do you think is the best thing about dating in Korea or Korean relationships? Especially compared to Germany?

S: Korean relations are very sweet and the partners are very caring for each other. That's the other side of what I described in the previous answer. Korean partners take great care of each other and thus support each other in everyday life. Koreans are open about their needs (e.g. spending time together) and try to impress and make the other person happy.

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